MONTREAL – The Pittsburgh Penguins might have Jordan Staal back for Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night, but where the playoffs give, they also take away.
Staal skated for the second straight day and looked ready to get back in the lineup, just days after undergoing surgery for a deep foot laceration when he collided with Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban in Game 1.
But the Penguins will have to go without Mike Rupp, who was mysteriously absent from the morning skate and declared out of the lineup by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. When asked, all Bylsma would say was that Rupp is not dealing with “a hockey injury.”
Veteran Bill Guerin, who is out with what is believed to be back spasms, said he would not play in Game 4, but hopes to be back for Game 5.
Staal looked comfortable skating and in situations along the boards and in front of the net. The Penguins have the luxury of being ahead in the series, so there might not be a need to rush Staal back if he’s not ready. Even if he does play, Bylsma said he’ll be worked back into the lineup.
“With his situation, talking to the doctors and talking to Jordan, it’s about him being comfortable in the (skate) boot,” Bylsma said. “There’s no danger to the procedure that he had or any other danger. When and if he’s able to play, we’ll probably see a situation where he wouldn’t be directly back in for 20 minutes a night in every situation.”
The Penguins do go into the game, however, knowing their lesser lights are playing a more prominent role than those of their opponent. Sidney Crosby has no goals in the series so far, but nine players have scored for the Penguins. The Canadiens, meanwhile, continue to rely far too heavily on their stars. Jaroslav Halak is the key to their fortunes, but so far in this series they’ve received goals only from Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and P.K. Subban.
“In the long run, to make a long playoff push or to be a successful team, most teams that win championships get production through the lineup,” Cammalleri said. “We’ve had that throughout the year and we’ve had a lot of guys step up and play well.”